Cover image of the review
Taryn Simon, *Cigarettes, Shuangxi, China (prohibited)* (Detail) Cigarettes & Tobacco (Abandoned/Illegal/Prohibited), Contraband, 2010 Archival inkjet print 15.9 x 15.9 cm © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Gagosian and Anna Schwartz Gallery.

Taryn Simon: Contraband

11 May 2019
Anna Schwartz Gallery 2 Apr - 1 Jun 2019

In late November 2009, American artist Taryn Simon photographed objects detained or seized from airline passengers and express mail entering the U.S. from abroad. To do so, Simon spent five days, 24 hours per day at both the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Federal Inspection Site and the U.S. Postal Service International Mail Facility, both located at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) in New York.

Taryn Simon, Contraband, 2010, Installation view, Anna Schwartz Gallery, 2019 © Taryn Simon. Courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery. Photo: Jacqui Shelton.

Simon photographed each object on a neutral cream background that highlights the erasure of environment and context. Simon has described this photographic space as a 'non-place'– a term coined by French anthropologist Marc Augé. There are two readings to be made here. First, Augé uses it to account for places like airports and hotels that are not personalised spaces or places which are invested with a subjective identity—in this case, JFK. Second, Simon has utilized a neutralised photographic backdrop to act as a referent to the newfound decontextualized space where these objects float in a space of no clearly defined identity. It is as though Simon created another world for these objects to inhabit, an allusion of sorts to where their path of material life gets documented, resting in the grasp of American hands.

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